Black Belt Eagle Scout comes home
During the pandemic, Black Belt Eagle Scout — the musical moniker of Katherine Paul — moved out of her Portland apartment and back home to her Swinomish tribal community in Washington. This reconnection with her homeland and her culture courses through the new album, The Land, The Water, The Sky, in which she continues in her soft-sung, alt-rock vein but bends her songs into more expansive vistas.
“All the songs that I’ve written honor this connection to where I’m from,” Paul told the music website Beats Per Minute. “... it’s important to go back to the land, it’s important to go back to the water, the sky, and remember that all of these things, for me, are what helped me and are what heal me and are what lead me to keep going in my life.” - MVS
If you go: Black Belt Eagle Scout, Neumos, Feb. 15. ($18-$20)
A Seattle-set novel about professorial power
If you’ve ever worked or spent time in academia, or any place where vestiges of old power structures remain hard to topple (as in, most places), you’ll likely feel a glimmer of recognition when reading The Laughter. This new campus novel by Seattle University professor Sonora Jha — author of How to Raise a Feminist Son — follows an older English professor who becomes enraptured with his new colleague at a Seattle college, a Pakistani Muslim law professor.
Set just before the Presidential election in 2016, the story is rife with toxic masculinity, sexual obsession, deeply flawed and outright unlikeable characters, dark humor and the tension of a nation on the verge of a political reckoning. Bestselling author Celeste Ng has already called it a “deliciously sharp, mercilessly perceptive exploration of power.” At Elliott Bay Books, Jha will speak about her book with local author Kim Fu. - MVS
If you go: Sonora Jha with Kim Fu, Elliott Bay Book Company, Feb. 15. (Free)
A revived Broadway play debuts in Seattle
If you say the name of the trailblazing writer “Lorraine Hansberry,” chances are someone will bring up A Raisin in the Sun. For good reason: It was the play that catapulted Hansberry to fame, won a slew of Tony awards and made her the first Black woman to have a play performed on Broadway.
The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, Hansberry’s second Broadway play, is considered a lesser-known work, but a new production in Seattle proves it’s no less relevant to the current times. As local director Ryan Guzzo Purcell told me earlier this month: The play may have a message for contemporary Seattle liberals. - MVS
If you go: The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, Erickson Theatre, through Feb. 25. ($5-$80)
Dig into The Roots in Sodo
If you’ve only come to know The Roots through their role as the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s various talk shows since 2009, you are missing some essential Black history. The neo-soul hip-hop band was founded by rapper Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson in 1987 while the two attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Once known as the Square Roots — hinting at their brainy approach to music — The Roots may have gone through a few name changes, but the jazz-inflected grooves and infectious mixes have remained the same. - BD
If you go: The Roots at Showbox Sodo, Feb. 20, 8 p.m. ($80-$85)
Yo La Tengo at The Neptune
It’s somewhat hard to believe that Hoboken, New Jersey-based Yo La Tengo has been around for 38 years and counting. Formed in 1984, the group continues to produce a steady stream of rock music that remains eerily discomforting and soothing at the same time. Their latest album is called This Stupid World, and while that may sound somewhat depressing, the lyrics on the album’s title track indicate a subtle bright side — or at least a reason to stick around. As Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley sing over a forebodingly droning guitar tapestry: “This stupid world/It’s killing me/This stupid world/Is all we have.” - MVS
If you go: An Evening with Yo La Tengo, The Neptune Theatre, Feb. 15 - 16. ($30-$35)
Heart-pounding Japanese drumming
In need of a burst of rip-roaring energy to propel you into the weekend? Consider the Yamato Drummers from the Nara Prefecture in Japan, whose rhythmic striking of traditional Japanese drums — somewhere between a concert, a dance recital and a martial arts performance — offer a heart-pounding, reverberate-in-your-seat kind of experience. – MVS
If you go: Yamato Drummers of Japan, The Moore Theatre, Feb. 16. ($33)
Digital paintings in Pioneer Square
In One Luv, a digital painting by Seattle artist Damon Brown (also known as Creative Lou), a cobalt-blue tennis court — sliced into sections by harsh white lines — takes up more than half of the available space. Positioned above the court is a colorful mural and above that, a washed-out sky. In front of the mural: two tennis players in movement, eyes on the ball. Both players are Black, and the painting, Brown says, plays on the rich and nuanced history of African Americans in tennis. It’ll be one among multiple digitally created (but screen-printed) works on view in Brown’s first solo show, Figment of Imagination, which looks to the power of creativity as a tool to bring people together. - MVS
If you go: Figment of Imagination, Center on Contemporary Art, Feb. 16-March 25. (Free)
A murder is staged
Is it just me, or has there been a resurgence of good old-fashioned murder mysteries in pop culture? Consider: the recent Knives Out movies, Kenneth Branagh’s two Agatha Christie reboots, TV series like Only Murders in the Building and Bad Sisters — all drawing unabashedly and gleefully on the genre’s juiciest tropes.
That means Book-It Repertory Theater has picked an ideal time to remind everyone that Christie was the source of all these plot-driven whodunits. The company is staging her first great (some say her greatest ever) novel, 1926’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, starring master detective Hercule Poirot and his “little gray cells.” The quaint village, the locked room, the mustaches: It’s all here, adapted for the stage by Danielle Mohlman and directed by Jasmine Joshua. - GB
If you go: Book-It Repertory Theatre’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Center Theatre at the Armory. Through March 5. ($20-$65)
Starting a classical music ensemble right now — just as performing arts groups are recovering from their pandemic-enforced sabbaticals — would be a quixotic endeavor; starting one in 2021 must have been borderline nuts, as I’m sure the forces behind the Seattle Chamber Orchestra were told. (On the other hand, they did have the concert calendar largely to themselves.)
But here they are, two years later, firmly established and even commissioning new works: namely British composer Edward Cowie’s Orca-Seattle, inspired by whale sounds. The SCO will premiere the piece this week, surrounded by Bach (the Suite no. 2 and the Brandenburg Concerto no. 5) and minimalism (music by Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt). Lorenzo Marasso conducts. - GB
If you go: Orca-Seattle, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 17. ($10-$35)
Last chance to see:
Barry Johnson gets personal
Over the past year, Seattle artist Barry Johnson created a dozen large-scale, autobiographical and radiant paintings. In them, he pictures himself sitting on chairs, reclining on couches, or hanging out in nondescript rooms bathed in pastel pinks, purples, tangerines and lush emeralds. The show, For Real Though, is both a capstone on 2022 and the beginning of a new chapter for Johnson. While he’s risen to local prominence as a prolific public artist and member of the Vivid Matter Collective (behind Seattle’s Black Lives Matter mural), this is Johnson’s first exhibit as a represented artist with Winston Wächter — and one not to miss. - MVS
If you go: Barry Johnson: For Real Though, Winston Wächter, through Feb. 25. (Free)
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